Reviewed by Chris Kovac
VAST: THE MYSTERIOUS MANOR (Leder Games, 1-5 players, ages 13 and up, 60-120 minutes; $75)
Vast: The Mysterious Manor is the second game in the Vast game series of asymmetrical games (the first being Vast – Crystal Caverns). In this game by Chris Leder, you have five unique characters (Paladin, Skeletons, Spider, Manor and Warlock), each with there own winning goals and unique gameplay interacting in a “Mysterious Manor”.
To set up the game, first lay out the game board showing the boundaries of the Mysterious Manor. Next, put the entrance tile, the armoury tile and the central pit tile on spaces marked on the board. Then shuffle all the mansion tiles face down and put two face down on either side of the entrance tiles and four face down around the central pit tile. Put the common supplies (poltergeists, treasure chests, breach and force wall markers) next to the board. Each player chooses a character and take all the game pieces for that character (characters available depends on the number of players). The player then sets up his characters pieces according to the characters setup sheet and you are ready to start the game.
Each game round is played in a set order: Paladin, Skeletons, Spider, Manor and Warlock. Each player does their whole turn before the next player goes. This continues until a player has reached their winning goal. As the manor is explored, new tiles will be added face down and the tiles will be turned over as the players move onto the tile or through the use of the players special powers. Any resources (blood, treasure, poltergeist, pit, armoury or shrine) shown on the tile when it is revealed are added to the tile. As mentioned, this is an asymmetric experience with each character having different winning goals and game mechanics. Now to summarize how each character (in player turn order) plays and the strategies needed to win as that character:
This character wins if he kills the spider by reducing its health track to zero while avoiding the skeletons who are trying to kill him. To win as the Paladin, you must get grit which increases the number of hero cubes you have which in turn allows you to do more actions. You keep track of grit on a grit dial. You also must find shrines which give you favor cards (special abilities) and treasures to get more grit or treasure artifacts from the Manor player. All the while, you have to build up your strength and plot attacks against the spider in all its forms (more on this later). You have special light powers which allow you to slow down or block other characters. So, building up strength, using the right favour and treasure cards at the right time, will help you attack the spider quickly and repeatedly to win before the spider’s strength gets too high to hit easily.
The goal of the skeleton is to kill the paladin by reducing the paladin’s health track to zero. To win as the skeletons, you have to organize group attacks against the Paladin since every additional adjacent skeleton to the defender vertically and horizontally increases the strength of your attack. Skeletons need to get stability points recorded on your stability dial to perform actions, activate new skeletons and perform attacks. You get two stability every turn plus additional stability through the looting of treasure chests. Skeletons have only one defense so are easily destroyed but always come back to be used in the next round from a random starting point which means the skeletons have to constantly be setting up ambushes of the Paladin to keep getting hits on the Paladin. As the Paladin becomes stronger, you need more skeletons to make hits. Getting equipment from the armoury, making sure you activate all your skeletons (you only start with two) and using there powers effectively will help you win as this character.
The spider wins if he manages to generate twelve terror points on his terror dial and leaves the manor by the main entrance marked by stairs. The spider has the ability to change forms between the spider, spiderlings (five separate pieces) and a sorcerer. Each form has special abilities and movement abilities. In order to get terror, you must get blood tokens from tiles or from attacks on other characters. You then spend blood to generate terror (three blood per terror). You can also generate terror by looting multiple treasures (only spiderlings) or generating enough webs on a tile (six webs plus a power card). Power cards give you special abilities. In order to win as the spider, you need to know when to change your form since the spiderlings can cover more tiles, the sorcerer can generate blood tokens under certain conditions and the giant spider is easier to defend. As you gain terror, your spider has better defense and your spirit track increases which allows you to draw more power cards at the end of the turn. All the while you have to watch out for the paladin who can easily accumulate hits on you when you are not noticing him. Getting terror quickly and consistently through the use of your various forms and power cards is how you will win this game as the spider.
The manor wins by completing 14 seal points via ritual cards. As the manor, you have the ability to reveal, shift, swap tiles and place walls on already revealed tiles. You can only do these actions if they have at least one omen cube on its action track. In order to get seals, you have to perform rituals using your wraith figure. If you can move the wraith the number of tiles shown on a ritual card without passing any figures (characters or poltergeists) or walls you get the number of seal points listed on the card which you keep track of on your seal track. You then move the wraith to the last tile in pattern. Ritual cards with only one seal allow you to place portent cubes on action tracks. These portent cubes count as permanent omen cubes on an action track. Omen cubes are removed at the end of every turn and placed on the tracks the player selects at the beginning of his turn. In order to win as the manor, you have to turn over as many tiles as possible and shift and/or swap tiles to create the right patterns for your cards while hoping that revealed cards do not put figures in your way or that other characters do not move onto tiles to block your way. Getting the right cards and using your tile moving abilities will help you win the game as this character.
The warlock wins by filling the five spaces on its dominated pieces track with any combination of 5 poltergeists and treasures. As the warlock, you are trying to move so you have networks of interconnecting treasures and poltergeists (includes the diagonal). You can distribute curses to all pieces in your network. If you have enough curses under a piece in your network equal to or greater than a space on your dominated track, you can remove the piece and put it in your dominated track to gain the power listed in that dominated piece box. You can gain curses through a “syphon” action (get a purse for each figure surrounding you) or through the use of various spell cards which you gain through the course of the game. However, every time another player piece lands in your space, you lose half your curses, must move two spaces away and advance your spell track one space (allowing you to use better spell cards). In order to win as this character, you have to generate curses and quickly put them down on pieces on your network before other players make you lose curses or disrupt your network. Creating good networks and playing curses down efficiently and effectively will help you win the game as this character.
As a whole, production quality of the game is good though it does not have the high-quality plastic pieces of the original game. The rules are good with an example of play provided for each character which helps you understand how each character plays. The only downside if any is that more experienced players will beat those with less experience due to the complexity of the characters game play.
If you liked the original Vast game or games with asymmetrical play like Leder’s own Root (featured in the Spring 2019 Gamers Alliance Report),T you will like this game. This is a heavy gamers game and is not designed for the casual or family player. You really have to play each character at least a couple of times in order to understand how each character plays. The player who can most efficiently play his character’s abilities to accomplish his winning conditions and prevent the other players from fulfilling their winning conditions will win. Vast: The Mysterious Manor earns a good eight out of ten especially for fans of this genre of boardgame. – – – – – – – – Chris Kovac
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